From Sugarland

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Harold’s Mansion, Dumaguete City
9:59 AM


The 48th National Writers Workshop is over.   What better way to start writing something at random than with a picture of myself holding a pink umbrella in the middle of the open sea. 

Last night, all 15 fellows and some friends gathered at Hayahay Bar and Grill for beer and reggae, right after the “graduation” ceremonies were concluded.  I went back to the hotel early, with two weeks’ worth of drinking taking its toll on my insides.  That gave me some time to think over what has happened over the past couple of weeks; those lessons I have learned, the friends I made, and what the future holds for me.

Waxing lyrical and emotional?  Nah… but like anything with a modicum of importance to my life, some thoughts are worth writing about. 

Before I left for the workshop, my friends told me that I should take everything in and learn.  As soon as it’s over, though, I should throw caution to the wind, throw everything I learned out the window, and do things my way.  I don’t think so.  I would be dishonest, arrogant, and stupid if I said that thanks to the workshop, I can now consider myself a writer: workshops and fellowships, like classes and seminars, do not make anyone a writer.  No workshop is ever a passport to a Palanca, if that’s what I’m looking for.  At most, I think of myself as a student of writing and the creative process.  Now that I am a fellow of a select group of writers, I guess I’m a pretty damn good student.

As a student of writing, I have to keep learning about writing.  There are a lot of things I need to improve on.  I need to watch out for lapses in tenses, conjuctions, prepositions, and just about everything else in grammar.  I need to flesh out the characters in my stories, make my politicization of plots more in-your-face, and if I ever had the soy sauce (read: toyo) to write a poem, I need to clean up my lines.  I don’t know how long that will take, but the workshop helped speed up the process.  Even if it meant an ass-kicking.

I could go on and on about how meaningful the workshop is for me, but those meaningful moments and epiphanies have (for at least two weeks) taken place right here in the beautiful city of Dumaguete.  From cold bottles of beer at Blue Monkey to heavenly desserts at Sansrival, Dumaguete City gave us more than our own fair share of fun and games.  Walks along Rizal Boulevard, where sand in your clothes and between your toes is not necessarily a bad thing.  Pasta at Mamia’s: as they say in Italian, molto bene, which probably means “damn good” in English.  Or Harold’s Mansion: one of the better hostels I’ve stayed in.  The beauty and serenity of Silliman University, too.

Sure, the memory of an octogenarian quartet singing “Dumaguete” and the greatest hits of Hagibis while you’re having your last drink together will burninate, but hell, that’s something to remember.

Trips to Antulang, La Libertad, and Balanan have convinced me that I’ve only scratched the surface of what the island of Negros has to offer.  Although that comes with the mental note that I should never attempt to get myself stranded at Siquijor for old time’s sake.  The mental reminder for me to come back; that I’m always welcome here.

That, and I should never dance again.  Oh, and that I should never sing a lyrics translation.  Somebody get me a beer.

Now that I’m a fellow of a very close and select group of writers and made my writerly Best Friends Forever, I don’t know what the future holds for me.  I don’t really know – yet – if I’ll end up a fictionist or an essayist or if I’m just going to do things my way and remain a blogger.  Whatever happens, though, I think that this is only the beginning of a journey to this thing called “the writer’s Truth…” whatever the hell that means.

All I know is that Sugarland welcomed me as a writing fellow to its prestigious writing workshop.  When I come back here next year, I should be a step away from being a student of writing, and a step closer to being a writer.

Many thanks to the fellows: Jonathan Gonzales, Bea Nakpil, Joy Rodriguez, Phillip Kimpo, Jr., Petra Magno, Arkaye Kierulf, Keith Cortez, Aleck Maramag, Maoui del Rosario, Mo Francisco, Ynna Abuan, Stan Geronimo, Gab Millado, and Nino Manaog.  Thanks to the panelists: J. Neil Garcia, Cesar Ruiz Aquino, Gemino Abad, Myrna Pena-Reyes, Sarge Lacuesta, Krip Yuson, Chari Lucero, Ernie Yee, Susan Lara, and Jun and Grace Arcellana.  Special thanks to: Ian Casocot, Jordan Carnice, Mickey Ybanez, Padma Perez, Andrea Soluta and the entire English department of Silliman University, and just about everyone who made this place Sweet Home Dumaguete all summer long (to paraphrase Kid Rock).

POSTSCRIPT: I usually write entries in exactly one hour, but this took me one hour and 15 minutes.  Fuckin’ workshop curse.

And oh hai, Bea Nakpil, even if you’re right beside me drinking that coffee which makes me want to look for beer on high noon.

2 comments on “From Sugarland”

  1. Reply

    I had read about a few of these things on other sites but they didn’t go into as much detail. Thanks for the posts.

  2. Reply

    I’ll be adding a link from my site to yours. This is quality stuff. Keep it coming!

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